It’s a celebration! Charlotte’s CineOdyssey Film Festival (Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21, 2019) marks its third year of showcasing cutting edge works by filmmakers of color from around the world. This time around, they’re not playing by the rules.
The opening night film, Una Great Movie, is a very meta, almost surreal comedy. “It’s very different, definitely. The whole plot is a movie within a movie,” founder Tre’ McGriff said.
The protagonist, a Black woman, pitches her script about traveling to Mexico and falling in love to Hollywood film executives, who gradually turn it into a standard rom-com with an all-white cast. Beautifully shot, it crackles with subtle visual and verbal jokes that are the calling card of writer/director Jennifer Sharp. The movie feels at least partially autobiographical: it’s taken Sharp, who won Best Film at the 2007 American Black Film Festival for hilarious underground classic I’m Through With White Girls, more than a decade to get funding and release another full-length feature.
Sci-fi/Fantasy lovers rejoice
With the runaway popularity of Stranger Things, Altered Carbon, See You Yesterday and Black Mirror’s “Striking Vipers” episode, the film industry seems to finally be realizing that there are Black people in the future. CineOdyssey saw a flood of submissions to support this wave.
“This year, an amazing crop of science fiction, fantasy and afrofuturism films kind of fell in my lap,” McGriff shared, listing a few of his favorite selections.
Suicide By Sunlight follows a vampire whose human husband has taken away her children, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get them back. The director is from Sierra Leone. “The nuances, down to her melanin allowing her to survive sunlight, are just clever and an unexpected surprise,” said McGriff.
The Bumbry Encounter is based on the true story of an interracial couple in 1961 who claimed to have experienced a paranormal encounter, but mysterious injuries lead to an interrogation that coerces diverging stories from the two. Its retro, acid trip aesthetic brings to mind old Twilight Zone episodes.
Four Points is the story of four citizens selected to participate in a high-stakes game to determine the policy of the newly elected administration. “It’s one of the most original films I’ve seen in the whole four years of the festival,” McGriff said.
Following the Saturday screening of Four Points is a panel discussion. A Convo On Sci Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Afro Futurism in Cinema will be moderated by Daryle and Margo Lockhart, founders of the popular Charlotte blog Sci Fi Generation, and Four Points director Cadell Cook.
‘We Don’t Do Themes’
More panel discussions, a student film showcase, and other programming delights await Charlotte-area film buffs. McGriff shares one last Easter egg about this year’s CineOdyssey: its completely organic cross-cultural vision.
“We don’t do themes,” McGriff said. “We steer away from that because it locks submissions in a box. But this year more filmmakers are doing films that aren’t in their background. We have a student film, Mr. Zoot Suit, about a Latino housekeeping supervisor with a passion for dance–but the director is African-American. Una Great Movie is about a Black American woman in Mexico. Bumbry Encounter is about a Black and White couple, but the director is Indian. It goes to show people are inspired and finding ways to be universally connected. All this cross cultural checking in the films makes a strong case that one shouldn’t limit the type of stories they tell, if they approach it in the right way. Embracing the culture, doing your research, and not trying to please the Hollywood masters. Be original. Be refreshing.”
Get your tickets at www.cineodysseyfest.org.